France Answers Fan Questions on 'NASCAR Live'
By: Dustin Long - @dustinlong on January 7, 2014 | 9:13 P.M. EST
NASCAR Chairman Brian France discussed several topics with fans during an appearance on "NASCAR Live'' on Tuesday. (Photo: Getty Images)
NASCAR Chairman Brian France says he’d like to see more primetime races, that series officials want to find ways to make winning more valuable and he’s looking forward to the No. 3 returning to the Sprint Cup Series this season.
France made those comments Tuesday night on Motor Racing Network’s “NASCAR Live” show.
France spent an hour with host Eli Gold and took phone calls from fans throughout the country. Questions varied from France’s favorite driver growing up (Richard Petty) to if it’s good for the sport to have Jimmie Johnson dominate (France admits it “adds intrigue”) along with questions about the racing.
France was asked about having earlier start times for Cup races. The spring races at Kansas Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway move from Sunday afternoon to Saturday night this year. Two races, though, will have earlier start times. The start of the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway has been moved up 15 minutes to 6:30 p.m. and the spring race at Richmond International Raceway will start 30 minutes earlier at 7 p.m.
France said there have been discussions with the TV networks about start times.
“If anything, we’re trying to go a little bit later,’’ France said. “We’re, obviously, trying to get more prime-time events and be in the widest possible audience that’s available on television, although I certainly understand that creates some hardships as well with people trying to get back.’’
Another topic was related to the points. France told the media in December that he wanted to find ways to incentivize winning. He mentioned that notion again during his “NASCAR Live’’ appearance when asked about the length of races.
“We’re working on the (race) format of the future, maybe it’s a little bit different, maybe it’s more than a little,’’ he said. “We also, I would tell you, we are not satisfied that we have the exact balance we want with winning, consistency, points, running for a championship.
“We think we can make some tweaks to continue to incentivize risk-taking and racing hard. We’re looking at that. We’ll undoubtedly be coming with things that put the incentive on winning races and competing at the highest level.’’
France also talked about the No. 3 returning to the Cup series for the first time since Dale Earnhardt’s fatal crash on the last lap of the 2001 Daytona 500. Austin Dillon will drive the No. 3 for Richard Childress Racing.
“I like it,’’ France said of the number’s return. “I wondered when it was going to happen, if it was going to happen. I think what Richard has said he wanted to make sure it was the right circumstance and not bring it back because he could but because it was right and it felt right. I think they way they’ve done it, keeping it in the family, it’s really a neat thing, and I’m really looking forward to watching the No. 3 out there in 2014.’’
France also discussed other topics such as:
Slowing the cars to enhance competition: “We are very committed to getting rule packages that create more side-by-side racing. That’s the hallmark of what we do. That’s what we wake up every morning trying to do. I’m confident that we’ll make the racing, which is already very good - and, by the way, statistically better than it ever was - but the standards are higher and we’re going to meet those standards and create the best racing in the world, that’s our job.’’
On Dodge’s departure and if they’ll return: “We were disappointed that they decided to take a break. We would love for them to take another look. I think at some point they will. There’s some other manufacturers that are always looking. The one challenge, though, is it’s very difficult to come in unless you have a long view as Toyota did because the best teams right now are obviously spoken for and under contract. It’s not only expensive, but you have to, if you’re a manufacture, be ready for the first number of years to be difficult and lean and tough. That’s not always what companies are looking for. They want to have a little bit more of short-term success. In our situation, that is hard.’’
On input NASCAR has with tracks when tracks make changes to the surface: “We have a lot of input. Here’s the good news: That every track on the circuit wants exactly what we want. They want the racing to be close, tight, competitive. They want to take care of their fans. From time to time, though, they’ll make a change, trying to get the racing better or whatever they may think is helpful, and it may not work out that way. I can tell you - I deal with all the operators on a daily basis - the last thing they want to do is change their track where the racing isn’t what it needs to be. When they do, and sometimes they do it accidentally or unintentionally, they want to make it right. So you need to know that. They’re all trying to get to the same place, great NASCAR ... racing.’’